2020 has brought some unique challenges. TheCovid-19 pandemic and lockdown has meant that many of us have been furloughed and have been spending much more time with family. For many of us, the extra time with family has allowed us to reconnect, spend quality time and enjoy some of the simple things of life. But even if it’s been rewarding, additional pressures can make maintaining family harmony challenging.
One of the reasons I wrote Meee in a Family Minute was to help families, including my own to stay connected regardless of the inevitable ups and downs of family life. We can’t postpone the relationship building and fun for the annual holiday, hoping that two weeks in the sun will miraculously solve any outstanding issues. Sometimes we need new ideas or new ways of thinking and relating to each other – right now.
Here are four such ideas that you can use with your family. They are quick to read and to put into practice. I hope that you will find them fun as well as useful:
This is particularly relevant now as we’ve not been able to shop the way we used to. Busy parents are often tempted to buy a gift rather thanshare an experience, because the experience takes time. This has been turned on its head during Covid and many of us have been surprised to learn that time spent is what really matters to our children.
When it comes to family relationships and happiness, psychological research suggests that experiences make us happier than possessions. Take a minute to plan a shared family experience – it might just be movie night and a pizza. Remember: we are the sum of our experiences not our possessions.
If ever there was an environment where ‘sorry’ was needed, it’s the family. Yet, it is often the place where it is said the least. This is a mistake. Take a few minutes to consider a situation at home where you think you should probably apologise.
Why haven’t you? Parents, biological or otherwise, can say sorry to their children and certainly most parents would be thrilled to hear a heartfelt sorry from their child. Siblings can and should apologise when they recognise their actions have hurt the other, or when they know they are in the wrong. We need to treat each other the way we want to be treatedourselves. A genuine apology can wipe the slate clean and allow us to open discussion and heal any lingering upset.
The loyalty, trust and affection we feel towards our family is developed gradually over time as we share life, experiences and laughter. It is the moments of joy and laughter that we often remember the most as we age.
The time Mum and Dad decided to get on the same sledge in the snow and ploughed into a drift. Or the mad blended family holiday to Spain that everyone loved, where your half-brother went to the kids’ club chocolate party and was covered head to foot. Laughter is the glue that sticks families together just as much as love.
Did you know that four-year-olds laugh 200 to 300 times a day? Adults only laugh 12 to 15 times a day? What happened in between? Take a minute to think about how often you laugh. Did you laugh today? Yesterday? Resolve to think like a four-year-old again and laugh more. Take a few minutes over dinner to decide on a funny movie or comedy show you can watch together. Have a giggle.
Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable! Based on the film of the same name this idea is a great way tocreate a shared family activity list. Make a list for the last half of 2020 seeing as the first half was such a washout.
Take a few minutes to sit down with your family and create your family bucket list. What do you want to do, see or experience as a family? Once lockdown is over, where would you like to visit? Give yourself and your children, whether biological, adopted or foster children, something memorable to look back on.
Family is messy but making small changes and undertaking new activities can help get back and deepen our connections with each other – and it doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Please use the four ideas I’ve given you here and enjoy the experiences you have as a result.
Once you have started to introduce these activities, and take on new ways of thinking, they will become part of your family’s DNA. You are improving family dynamics todayand also teaching everyone skills and approaches that will guide your daily lives and improve future relationships.
Sid Madge is founder of Meee (My Education Employment Enterprise) which draws on the best creativity and thinking from the worlds of branding, psychology, neuroscience, education and sociology, to help people achieve extraordinary lives.
To date, Meee has transformed the lives of over 20,000 people, from leaders of PLC’s and SME’s to parents, teachers, students, carers, the unemployed and prison inmates.
Sid Madge is also author of the ‘Meee in Minute’ series of books which each offer 60 ways to change your life, work-, or family-life in 60 seconds.